Monday, December 1, 2014

The Hotel Pool Workout

Ever stuck with no option to train but the small hotel pool? Here's a session to keep your feel of the water up when constrained by a less-than-25 yard pool.

Hotel Pool Workout

16 laps* one arm freestyle:
4  right arm/ 4 left arm / 4 right arm (other by side) / 4 laps left arm (other by side)

20 laps kick:
2 x (4 front arms stretched in front / 2 left side / 2 right side / 2 back)

16 laps sprint kick
8 x 2 laps sprint kick (can be underwater). 10 secs rest between each 2 laps.

16 laps sculling
Continuous Sculling. Can vary where the hands are placed and arms are positioned (out in front, at 90 degrees, towards the thighs)

12 laps breastroke arms with fly or freestyle kick

8 laps freestyle with underwater arm recovery (doggie paddle essentially)

6 x 2 laps Sprint Butterfly, 10 seconds rest

8 laps long exaggerated slow motion freestyle concentrating on point of entry and pull phase.

Total 108 laps (if pool length = 15 yds ~ 1500m workout)

* A lap is one length across the pool

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Secret Race Series For Runners

2014 season opener of the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix (photo: Gunnar Roll)
It was almost like they were hiding. A steep redwood lined single track opened up into a small field where there were a few tents and tables and a few hundred runners with their belongs strewn across the grass. There was none of the blaring "psyche up" music and race announcer noise I've become accustomed too at locally organized road runs put on by commercial race organizers. If even if there were, not many wouldn't have been there to hear it as they were on lengthy warm up or cool down runs from one of the three 4-mile races (open men, masters men and women). Probably fortunately, there was no sponsoring fitness club to encourage participants to do jumping jacks pre-run.

Registration for the UC Santa Cruz XC Challenge
If there was on-line registration I couldn't find it. You could save yourself $5 by mailing in a generic entry form but seeing the race was less than half what I'd paid earlier in the year for a race put on by a local shoe store chain I was happy to hand over $20 cash at the empty registration table which was at the parking lot beside three lonely looking porta pottys. I was handed a number and 4 pins.

Knowing what I was getting myself into I lined up right at the back of the Opens Men's event, which turned out to be very accurate self-seeding.  From my vantage point I observed a distinct lack of running store pushed paraphernalia; compression socks, fuel belts, GUs. Just mostly skinny guys in club singlets. There was no chip timing and the awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd were announced very shortly after I stumbled over the finish line. The winning guys ran up and down the gravelly incline in around 5:15 min/mi pace. I boasted of a negative podium after the race (3rd last). There were no bars, cookies, hot chocolate at the post-race refreshments table, just some sports drink, cut up oranges and banana. I'm not sure if that explained why most around me were so skinny but I wasn't hearing any complaining.

Masters Mens race
Another unusual aspect was that there was money to be won. Both for individuals and the collection of USATF teams that were present. It doesn't amount to much ($50/$30/$20 of the winner of the Mens Open race), but better than the resounding nothing of most, much higher participation, local races offer. The teams dimension also added some extra motivation and the atmosphere was supportive with runners cheering their team mates from the sidelines.

While generally devastating for the ego, the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix is a great reminder that, when you strip it away, being a good runner has a lot to do with, well, running. With races from August to November in locations from Santa Cruz to Sacramento and in between, lots can be learned by joining a PA USATF club (I'm a member of Santa Cruz Endurance) and surrounding yourself with these athletes both young and old. Just don't expect to hear many inspiring stories about running changing lives. From the hot pace I suspect most of them started running at high school or college and just never broke the habit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Is Bart Yasso Famous?

If you ask most people this question they will tell you "Yasso 800s". Turns out if you run 10 x 800m intervals your splits in minutes and seconds will be about what your marathon time is in hours and minutes. He thought of that...
The Obligatory Yasso Selfie. Source: Twitter
So, why is Bart Yasso famous? He's kinda old now so must have been some athlete in his hey day. Well, he won the Smoky Mountain marathon in 1998. That's right *the* Smoky Mountain marathon. And he was U.S. Biathlon Long Distance champion in 1987. Which is either shooting and running or cycling and running*. In any case I'm sure you all have your DVRs set to the next Biathlon Long Distance Championships.

So, maybe not athlete. How about coach? What with the workout and numerous published training schedules. He helped ______ to numerous victories and pulled _______ from obscurity to become one of the world's best.

I met Bart once (who hasn't) and he seemed like a lovely bloke to me. Friendly, humble and generous. He has a job which basically allows him to cruise around the world and do run races. Jealous? Yes, I am. Famous? Why not I guess.

*I did some research. According to wikipedia Biathlon is shooting and cross country skiing. No running involved.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Six Things Aussie Expats Will Never Understand About The U.S.

Water Levels of Toilets

Let's forget for a minute which direction the water is flushing. Why are the water levels of U.S. toilets so high? There is no way to take a piss standing up without splashing in a U.S. toilet. This is not a problem in Australia, nor is flushing shit down the toilet. So..Why?
Australian Bowl

American Bowl

No Chocolate Powder on the Cappuccinos 

I asked myself this all of the 47 times I licked the chocolatey froth off my take away* coffee lid on my recent three week cappuccino binge of Australia.

Merge Lanes on Highways (freeways, whatever)
On ramps are a life and death situation for no reason in the U.S. If you're in the right (slow) lane and someone bombs in via the on ramp you basically have to decide to hold your ground, slow down, speed up or side swipe the vehicle on your left. In Australia, if you're on the highway, you're the boss. End of story. How easy is this to fix? Behold, the dotted line...

Four Way Stops
W. T. F.?!!! Why, why, why? When traffic is light, you're stopping for no reason. Waste of gas (PETROL!), waste of time. When traffic is heavy you have to have the alertness of a ninja master to figure out which of the four of you stopped first. Which in many cases you can't which results in everyone waving at each other like dick heads through the front windscreen. Roundabouts or traffic lights, people. Roundabouts or lights.

No Footpaths

There must be a law or something in Australia where you have to have a footpath on at least one side of the street. This is not the case in the U.S. Car industry lobbying? Who knows but it's freaking annoying.

Junk Mail

Unsolicited mail you might call it in the U.S. Here's how you stop in Australia. Done.

*Yes, "take away" not "take out". Take out is something you do to a girl not your fish and chips)

What have I missed? If it's worthy I'll add it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Product Review: Ciclotte - Wait but what?

Thanks to John Savage for finding this and suggesting I review it. I'm not really sure where to start or finish with this one. Sexual fetish object? Furniture? Exercise equipment?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

8 Things Competitive Runners and Triathletes Can Do To Get Their Sports Back.

The Seventh Sign of the apocalypse came recently when Competitor Group, organizers of the Rock n' Roll Marathons, pulled support of elite runners from their events. It signaled a mainstream acceptance of the end of distance running and triathlons as sports and their re-categorization into what you could term "endurance activities".

Photo Credit: Pilot Roads
The vast majority of races have become endurance activities. Combined with running is entertainment (music, dress-ups, mud), marketing props (compression socks, fuel belts) and in some cases obstacles (paint, mud, fairy lights). These endurance activities have brought thousands upon thousands to the healthy lifestyle of running and triathlon.

Since the Competitor Group decision I've read articles from those that remember and enjoyed competitive running and triathlon before it they became participation events. They try and blame themselves and brainstorm ways to rescue the sport by integrating better with the endurance activities. To them I say, let it go, the horse has bolted. It's time to leave endurance activities to those that enjoy them and reclaim running and triathlon as sports again as a separate entity.

Running and triathlon can be competitive sports again but first, let's remind ourselves exactly what that means.

Essentially competitions were races to determine who was the fastest. To do that you had to pit yourselves directly against one another. The aim of everyone competing was to get yourself over the finish line first or as close as possible to first as your ability allowed. The winners were celebrated and rewarded because that was what was important. No, scratch that, it was more than important, it was the whole fucking point.

If you are interested by competition, and would like triathlon and running reinstated as a sport, there are a number of actions you can take to change and support a competitive event culture.

1. Boycott races called 5K that aren't

Facebook Ad for Rebel Race
What is most irritating about the [Mud, Color, Rebel, Fire, Paint, Glow Stick] phenomenon is they continue to co-opt the "5K" bit which gives the impression the event is a running competition. These events have more to do with pornography than running.

2. Boycott races that raise money for charity or that forces you to raise money to enter.

Whoa! Confronting. But when you think about it charity and competition really have nothing in common. The connection is purely arbitrary.

The lines used to be clearly drawn between fundraiser and athletic event. Runs to raise money were called "Fun Runs" and were clearly separated from normal running events. Similar to the way  "Swim-a-thons" are different to a regular competitive swim meet. You knew what you were getting into before you signed up. Now, it's almost impossible to enter an endurance event that is not connected to a charity. It's also becoming increasing common for you to be discriminated against entering unless you are raising money by having special slots reserved for charity entrants.

3. Boycott races with an Expo

Most endurance products don't work so trying to tie a sprawling marketing expo of endurance junk to any competitive event is a distraction. Check my product reviews for more on that. I'm not against sponsors but it doesn't need to be a never ending proliferation of crap that's being marketed to those involved in endurance activities.

4. Support events that offer prize money or decent swag to the winners.

This is important to encourage the best athletes to compete. Many endurance activity organizers have made it very clear this is not a priority.

5. Boycott runs that use chip time over gun/clock time to determine the winners.

Awards based on chip timing reduces any potentially competitive situation into a meaningless personal time trial. Essential competitive elements such as tactical surging are nullified if you are consider that the athlete you are pacing off might actually be five seconds in front of you because of where they lined up on the starting line. More detail here.

6. Boycott triathlons that implement wave starts or rolling starts for no reason.

As well as preventing direct competition excessive use of staggered waves destroys the spectacle that is the mass start. There is no proof that swimmers are dying in triathlons because there are other swimmers around them. Absolutely none. Hundreds of competitors setting off together at the sound of the starters gun was one of the sports great thrills and experiences. There are exceptions for short races if the bike course would truly become too congested and cause drafting but this should not be an issue for long distance races. A wave of 50 people is ridiculous.

7. Boycott any race that offers a medal to everyone.

The New York Times article Losing Is Good For You was written about kids sports but it applies equally to endurance activities. It boils down to fact that there's no motivation to perform if everyone wins.

8. Join a club

Contributing to the strength of clubs can add an extra layer of competition to an event through team competitions. Of course there are events that try and kill even this layer of competition by offering participation points and points for arbitrary things like volunteering. A strong club can also hold their own events which are more likely to be competitive in nature.

It will be a long road back but following these 8 suggestions may encourage some race directors to put on triathlon and running competitions again. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Piedmont 5K Results - Race Report from Winner John Savage

By John Savage's blog.

For the run, I knew that my preparation would be pretty solid. After racing at nationals, and my disappointing run, I made a commitment to myself to run every day for 100 days. Some days it is as little as a mile, but I have been averaging roughly 3.5 miles/run. I have also been doing roughly one track workout a week to help with my speed. I am about halfway through my 100 day commitment, and my legs have been feeling pretty solid, so I went into the race to come away faster than last year.

I got to the race, and with the race being put on by the school district, many of my current and former students were there. A few of my water polo players were there, and a few of the people I train with at the track workouts were there, so I knew that there would be some competition. 

I did my usually warm-up, and made my way to the start line. As this is a community race, a bunch of the younger kids like to line up at the start, so the first three or four rows of racers are all kids under 14. While this is adorable, it is also a little dangerous. They sprint the first 25-50 yards, and then slow down. Behind them are another ~400 racers who are running who are now effectively playing dodge the kid to avoid running them over.

I lined up about 4 rows deep with some of the people that I do the track workouts with, and we laughed at the little kids in front of us. At the start, as predicted, the little kids took off. Then one tripped. Then two more tripped. Within the first 100 yards, we had the potential for a bunch of people to get hurt. I carefully picked my way around the kids, and one of my track friends (Steve) went with me.

Through the first mile, I was running side by with a guy I didn't know (henceforth, Nemo), and Steve was behind us by a few steps. The first mile was all flat or downhill, and it ticked off quickly in just under 5:30. I was noticing that Nemo was pulling ahead a little on the flats, but with my superior mass (I weighed more than him by a bit), I was able to use my momentum to keep pace on the downhill.

Then came the first hill. Hills are one thing that I get to run regularly around here, so I pushed the tempo up the hill, and Nemo and Steve fell behind by about ten seconds. The hill was pretty short, and followed by a short flat section, and I was quickly caught again. I knew that the course was hilly, and assuming that I could push the later hills, the course would play into my favor.

Here's the course. Downhill, then uphill, then downhill...and you get the point.

The next hill came quickly, and it was a long one. It goes from the middle of Piedmont to almost the top. I kept my rhythm pretty steady until about halfway up, and then put the pace down a little. The breathing and footsteps that had been right on my shoulder faded away, and I was able to put some time between the two trailing runners.

At the top of the hill, I let my legs go beneath me on the downhill. I wasn't hurting after the hill, but I knew that there was a brief climb at the end, so I would need to save something for that if I was caught. I started making mental notes as I passed spectators and volunteers in the timing of the cheers for Nemo and Steve to try and judge how far behind me they were. In the past I would have looked, but I am trying to get away from that and run with confidence, rather than fear of getting caught, so I kept my eyes forward and my ears back.

I noticed that the gap was getting smaller, but I knew that I had one more hill at the end. I slowed my tempo just a bit to save my legs, and at the base of the hill, I could hear one set of footsteps behind me by a few strides. This is when I threw down what I had left.

The gap slowly got bigger, and at the top of the hill, I took a quick look behind me and saw that I had about 8 seconds on Nemo. Steve wasn't in sight. I pushed through the end, and finished in 17:57, more than a minute faster than my result from last year.